Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Adventure,Thrillers Movie Review of ‘One in the Chamber’ (2012)

Movie Review of ‘One in the Chamber’ (2012)

One in the Chamber is just okay. It’s not great or even overly good, but it’s not dreadful; it’s in the unremarkable province between those two extremes. The action sequences on offer here are not the best or the worst you’ll ever see, the acting is middle-of-the-road, the story is standard-order, and production values are decent. It works as a serviceable time-killer on a slow day to an extent, but it’s doubtful that you will remember the film a few weeks down the track – or, indeed, a few hours after watching. Pretty much the only thing distinguishing One in the Chamber from other direct-to-DVD action films is the presence of Dolph Lundgren, who’s extremely colourful and flamboyant here.

In Prague, assassin Ray Carver (Gooding Jr.) is hired by a mafia family to kill several members of a rival gang. However, this sparks an all-out war between the two gangs, leading to bloodshed and carnage. Carver’s employers soon call in Soviet badass Aleksey Andreev (Lundgren), an assassin more commonly known as “The Wolf,” to finish what Carver failed to achieve. Meanwhile, Ray is employed by the same people he was previously hired to assassinate. As an all-out mob war breaks out, Carver also begins a flirtatious relationship with Janice (Bassols), a woman he’s been besotted with for years.

Clichés run rampant throughout One in the Chamber. In a painfully contrived sequence, Janice is snooping around Carver’s apartment and finds a bible which belonged to her late father, and deduces that Ray was involved in her father’s death. Janice storms off upset, but is soon targeted by the bad guys, so Carver has to save her and redeem himself. Additionally, storytelling throughout the film is often messy and garbled. At times it’s hard to discern what’s happening, and a handful of plot developments are too vague. Whether this is due to the writing, the directing or the editing, I cannot be certain, but it is problematic, especially for what’s advertised as a straight-ahead B-grade action fiesta. Added to this, we get internal narration courtesy of Carver, but it’s too melodramatic. It’s laudable that the screenwriters tried to infuse the killer with humanity, but the material winds up sounding corny. There is simply not enough depth to Ray’s character in the first place, and the stream-of-conscious narration does nothing to help this.

To his credit, William Kaufman is not a bad director – in fact One in the Chamber is an attractive-looking action movie which miraculously makes its Eastern European locations look appealing. He is, however, very workmanlike; the action set-pieces here are somewhat decent, but they are by no means memorable or outstanding. Kaufman dishes up the usual assortment of shoot-’em-up and beat-’em-up elements that we’ve seen done better before…and oftentimes done significantly better before. Unfortunately, quality of the action drastically varies. While there are a few badass action beats, some scenes employ far-too-obvious CGI blood. Furthermore, Kaufman’s pacing is a mixed bag. Especially throughout the midsection, the film plays out at an uneven pace.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is an Oscar winner, but he has fallen quite far in the years since Jerry Maguire; now he’s a direct-to-DVD action hero, on a par with Steven Seagal. Gooding tries to play the role of Ray Carver as a stoic, emotionless assassin, and does an okay job, but he lacks energy. And it is very problematic for an action hero to have almost no personality. On the flipside, however, is Dolph Lundgren, who clearly had an absolute ball with this role. Lundgren looks suave and assured, killing his targets with precision whilst donning Hawaiian shirts and fedoras. As shown in the recent Expendables 2, Lundgren has terrific comedic timing and deadpan delivery, and One in the Chamber makes good use of this. This is a classic case of wanting to root for the bad guy, because Lundgren is the only one in the film with any energy. Thus, the film focuses on the wrong character; I found myself wanting to know more about Dolph’s Aleksey Andreev than Carver, and was disappointed that the film concentrates so much on the latter. The rest of the cast is decent enough, but by no means memorable.

At the end of the day, One in the Chamber is a passable effort, but it looks pretty unremarkable amongst the dozens of other direct-to-DVD action flicks on the market. The only real reason to see the film is Dolph Lundgren, who’s extremely enjoyable and in remarkable shape for a man in his 50s. One can’t help but wonder how much better the film would’ve been if it focused on Dolph’s slick assassin rather than Cuba Gooding Jr.’s conflicted character.

5.1/10

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